Readings! Photos! Guitar!

Hey all – been a busy couple of months. Read poetry in Louisville as part of the first Spalding at the Speed, April 18…   mj reading spalding at speeddrove up to Bloomington May 16, as the featured poet for the Lemonstone Reading Series, reading alongside my friend, fiction author Karen Mann …10259017_883125051702821_5214415117175301735_o 10259017_883125048369488_1210380052554758848_o I was also the featured musician …10371344_791040593251_468777492020249866_o THEN a couple of days camping, only to drive home, pack, and fly the next morning to New York City (May 20-22),1798633_795628713621_3528346666155918680_n10397294_792169131651_2194842426874349754_o   to attend the reception for the winners of the 2nd Annual Raynes Poetry Prize, sponsored by Jewish Currents magazine. (My poem, “Mantua, 1606″ came in one of two second places) judged by Joan Larkin. It was held at the Actor’s Temple, 47th St., near 9th Ave. 10268571_792190718391_1290974963029438447_n10287011_792190723381_5074358417050443120_o10286924_792185169511_8286393249524420493_o10273287_792188353131_719135773123632384_o While there, I also got to do research on original Thoreau manuscripts at the 42nd St. New York Public Library!10346059_792181232401_5987056381054627767_n 10005834_792172754391_5396385766691635245_o 10256980_792434145561_6150824644060548215_o Which was awesome. Also viewed some amazing American masterpieces (Hopper, Lichtenstein, Johns, O’Keefe, etc.) at the Whitney. Then home, and the next day – pack again and move into the Brown across the river to work as a Spalding MFA Post Graduate Residency Assistant during Spring Residency May 23 – June 1. I also participated in a workshop, a staff reading, and had a wonderful time – but my favorite time was perhaps playing guitar in the Brown Hotel lobby one evening.10404360_795627526001_4978114352156180_n It has been a wonderful couple of months – and now it’s time to kick back for a few weeks, write, work on my manuscripts and drafts, before teaching Creative Writing for Summer 2 session at I.U. Southeast. Phew!

Good News for a recent poem

Larry Bush, editor of Jewish Currents called to tell me that my poem “Mantua, 1606″ won second prize in their second annual Dora and Alexander Raynes poetry contest, judged by Joan Larkin. There is a modest cash prize, publication in Jewish Currents as well as in an anthology they are producing, and I’m invited to a reception in New York on May 15. Of course, I’m thrilled.

next workshop: on break

Hello Writers:

The face-to-face WWP meetings are going on hiatus for a while, at least until the end of the summer. It has been a straight shot for seven years, but it’s time for a break and a possible re-conception of the project. In the meantime, things will be developing online. Any questions, comments, let me know.

Just because meetings are on a break, that doesn’t mean Web things won’t be happening – like this question: Are you a basher or a swooper? Here is a quote from Kurt Vonnegut’s final novel published during his lifetime, Timequake. Let me know by reply mail.

Tellers of stories with ink on paper, not that they matter anymore, have been either swoopers or bashers. Swoopers write a story quickly, higgledy-piggledy, crinkum-crankum, any which way. Then they go over it again painstakingly, fixing everything that is just plain awful or doesn’t work. Bashers go one sentence at a time, getting it exactly right before they go on to the next one. When they’re done they’re done.

[Says Vonnegut,] I am a basher.

Thanks for your seven years of continuous support!

Kindest regards, and write your hearts out!

– Michael

Michael Jackman, Director

Senior Lecturer in Writing, Indiana University Southeast


  • Next Workshop: On Break
  • Location: TBA
  • Topic: An interesting and useful craft lesson.
  • Limit: 3-8 participants per meeting. All writing levels welcome.

More about the WWP:


Writers’ Police Academy, Part I

By MaryAnn Fitzharris, Guest Writer

At the Writers’ Police Academy, in Greensboro, North Carolina, approximately 180 writers—of mystery, crime, suspense, and thrillers—exited the busses that took us a few miles from the hotel to the actual Police Academy at a nearby junior college. Once we were off the bus, the resident SWAT leader identified a suspicious purple backpack left in the parking lot. Drama ensued as we watched from a front-row seat. It was even 8 a.m. yet.

The police and bomb squad arrived. A highly skilled K-9 dog sniffed the bag and verified the presence of explosives. A $125,000 robot approached, took an x-ray and transmitted it back to the bomb squad vehicle, and then did as it was instructed—picking up the backpack and moving it to a more isolated spot. That’s when the heavily protected bomb squad officer approached, set a charge, and blew up the bag that contained both C2 and C4.  Hero dog. Hero robot. Superhero bomb squad. They saved the day. And we writers had already begun our immersion into the world of police training.

A short time later, I “drove” an ambulance in a driving simulator and never hit anyone, but one car did hit me. It was amazing how some drivers will pull right in front of an ambulance to “get out of the way.” I felt nauseous when I left the simulator…mostly from the anxiety of speeding through red lights and weaving through cars. I understand it’s cheaper to train drivers this way than to keep replacing damaged ambulances.

By noon that day, many of us had watched the jaws of life in action, toured a fire department, and taken and processed our own fingerprints. We learned how fingerprints at a crime scene are retrieved and processed, and when and why they are—or aren’t—put into a national or international database.

I “met” a bloodhound whose only job was to sniff fabric and then go find that person, even if it’s against the wind or a week later. He’s usually used for finding missing civilians, not criminals. The other dog, his companion, was a Malinois (Belgian shepherd dog) whose job was to track and apprehend bad guys and to identify the presence of drugs and explosives.  This dog was amazing. And his paycheck for a job well done was  . . . a toy!

Mid-afternoon, after an orientation to SWAT weapons, gear, and techniques, I helped clear a building with a SWAT team using fake “red” guns. In one scenario a team of five breached an apartment door and entered with weapons drawn, intent on neutralizing the threat within. They never found me hiding on the patio with a machine gun. When I heard the team declare the apartment to be empty, I entered the room from the patio and shot them down where they stood, including my favorite New York Times best-selling suspense writer Lisa Gardner. I was a successful bad guy. (In another simulation, the bad guy got me when she jumped out of a closet, so it evened out!)

The Writers’ Police Academy, in Greensboro, North Carolina, occurred over a four-day weekend in early September 2013, and included:

  • 27 workshop speakers with expertise at the federal, state, sheriff and local police levels. These were specialists in forensics, fingerprint, DNA, and forensics. The SWAT operators, police, fire, EMS, and K-9 dog handlers were all genuinely interested in helping us getting our facts straight.
  • 3 incredible main speakers:
    • Lisa Gardner, New York Times best-selling author
    • Kathy Reichs, author of the Temperance “Bones” Brennan  books and producer of the TV show Bones
    • Dr. Dan Krane, one of the nation’s top DNA experts
  • Two felony traffic (“high-risk”) stops in the parking lot
  • Ambulance-driving simulations
  • Firearms simulations
  • Jail tours and police ride-alongs
  • On-site building searches
  • SWAT, DNA, fingerprinting
  • Live police, fire, EMS, K-9 units, bomb squad displays
  • And, so much more.

Here were some of the highlights for me:

High-risk stops: We watched the police make two high-risk traffic stops in the dark using a “blanket of lights” on the front of their vehicles to keep the bad guys from seeing where the officers were squatting with their guns. We experienced the entire takedown—from the first, “Driver, this is the police. Turn off your vehicle and hold your keys out the window,” to the final handcuffing of the last person in the car. It was quite dramatic and informative.

Underwater evidence recovery:  I interviewed six of the sheriff department’s underwater recovery team who described their experiences and listed some of the weirdest things they found in dark, murky waters besides bodies and guns (motorcycles, bikes, a huge fish egg, refrigerators, and more).

Tasers:  I had a private discussion about Tasers with three police officers who gave me a tutorial as I held a Taser. But I declined the offer to get zapped. One cop, who has been Tasered four times, said the five seconds of a Taser feels like a very long time, and if you’ve been Tasered once, you never want it to happen again. Police officers now use Tasers instead of pepper spray because it’s more effective.

WRITER tee shirt: The Castle-esque quality of wearing a WPA tee shirt that says WRITER in the back, and being with law enforcement officers with POLICE or SWAT on the back of their shirts, was the source of great fun!

Sisters in Crime (SinC)— —is an organization devoted to helping women crime writers, paid $100 towards each SinC  registration to Writer’s Police Academy to keep costs more manageable. By my estimates, that’s $100 x approximately 180 registrants, or $18,000 towards making WPA 2013 happen. Thank you, Sisters in Crime ( And thanks also to Lee Lofland (, creator and director of WPA.

And thanks to Mike Jackman who let me be a guest on his blog to tell you about this exciting writers’ event. Stay tuned for Part II where I’ll share some of the actual details I learned.

About MaryAnn Fitzharris

When she isn’t teaching correct grammar or business writing as an adjunct professor at Indiana University Southeast, MaryAnn is creating likeable characters, putting them in danger, and constantly frustrating their efforts to keep horrible things from happening to the United States. In other words, she writes thrillers. She lives in Louisville, Kentucky, and is a member of the Friday Writers’ Group and the national Sisters in Crime.

Two killer writers conferences by guest blogger Maryann Fitzharris

By Guest Blogger: MaryAnn Fitzharris

Sometimes I ask myself—when dreaming up complex plots requiring tons of research—why I didn’t choose a simpler genre. A less research-oriented one.  Thrillers require research of intimate details about weapons, bioterrorism, police procedures, FBI take-downs, electronic surveillance, computer crime, identity theft—and dozens of other complex topics.

If I changed to a different kind of writing, maybe I could spend more of my time crafting intriguing characters with elaborate back stories, or writing beautiful literary prose, or—as my brother keeps suggesting—writing about things I know.

That’s what I wondered all summer. But then . . . then the outdoor pool closed and there was the promise of a bracing chill in the air. And I found myself signed up for my two favorite writing conferences:

The titles tell it all. And each of them makes me ecstatic to be a thriller writer. This year, even doubly so.

Coming next are my reviews of these awesome crime-writing-oriented writers’ conferences. If you’re a crime/thriller/suspense/mystery writer, I predict you’ll want to join me next year.

And thanks to Michael Jackman who let me be a guest on his blog to tell you about these exciting writers’ events.

About MaryAnn Fitzharris

When she isn’t teaching correct grammar or business writing as an adjunct professor at Indiana University Southeast, MaryAnn is creating likeable characters, putting them in danger, and constantly frustrating their efforts to keep horrible things from happening to the United States. In other words, she writes thrillers. She lives in Louisville, Kentucky, and is a member of the Friday Writers’ Group and the national Sisters in Crime.